The Hungry and Overweight Paradox

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
The Hungry and Overweight Paradox

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The reality is that hunger and being overweight are linked and it affects millions of children and adults.

Food insecurity is when there is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecurity also could mean someone is getting enough to eat in terms of calories but the quality, variety and desirability of their food is lacking.

In the United States, nearly 12 percent of American households are food insecure. And nearly 16 percent of households with children are food insecure. That's 40 million Americans living in food insecure households. Beyond obesity, the consequences of food insecurity are profound. Children who don't have access to enough nutritious food are more likely to experience difficulty learning, behavioral issues and anxiety. Adults who don’t have access to enough nutritious food are more likely to experience mental health issues and chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Poverty and unemployment are key drivers that have led to food insecurity in America. African Americans, Latinos, children, older adults, people living in households led by single parents and people residing in rural areas are at increased risk for food insecurity.

As a result of these driving forces, individuals often choose less expensive, calorie-dense food that doesn't deliver the nutrients they need. This can lead to overweight children who lack the healthy, nutrient-rich food their bodies need.

If you or someone you know is food insecure in the United States, there are a number of resources that can help:

National School Lunch Program: low-cost or free lunches for eligible children.

School Breakfast Program: low-cost or free breakfasts for eligible children.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infrants and Children (WIC): supplemental food and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to age five.

Summer Food Service Program: free lunches for school-age children in low-income areas during summer months and when school is not in session.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): nutrition assistance for low-income individuals and families.

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